16 July 2012
Ewart Wooldridge, the chief executive of the Leadership Foundation reflects on recent meetings with inspirational leaders.
I felt very privileged to be invited by the British Council to Aung San Suu Kyi’s final lecture on her recent visit to the UK.
Her speech was unscripted, highly focused and passionate. It was preceded by a commitment by Martin Davidson CMG, Chief Executive of the British Council to increase their investment in Burma, particularly in relation to education and higher education. Aung San Suu Kyi spoke essentially about the critical importance of education in resisting and transforming oppressive government regimes. She was softly spoken and her demeanour was quiet, emphasising the importance of leadership by influence, persuasion and example. In response to a question about reconciling ‘good and evil’ in the world, her view was clear: ‘The struggle is not about the triumph of good over evil. It is about empowering those capable of learning to triumph over those who are not capable of learning’.
On the same day, by coincidence, I met another great world figure, José Antonio Abreu. Not so well known by name as Aung San Suu Kyi, his achievements are, as he is the Venezuelan who created El Sistema – using music making to transform the lives of children from the poorest homes in Caracas. He is best known for the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, but his work has actually touched the lives of over 400,00 children worldwide. Both he and Aung San Suu Kyi share a common sense of humility, a deep respect for others, and an abiding ability to listen. We need to remember, that there are some tremendous world leaders from whom we have much to learn.
Ewart Wooldridge CBE
Leadership Foundation for Higher Education